Woodford Furnace Festival 2019

I made the voyage across the big lake again this past August, to the humble and welcoming village of Woodford, Ireland Co. Galway. This place, it’s people, the landscape, the pub, is growing on me. Sometimes it feels like a place from the past, sometimes like a place far in the future. Usually like a place plucked from this earth and placed down on another.

I spent a week here after traveling via vehicle and boat with a good friend from London, England. This was not before, however, some adventures worth noting: sleeping on the coast of Wales, going undercover as an “artist assistant” in order to sleep on the grounds of the National Museum in Dublin, and gold panning in the hills of County Wicklow.

The week in Woodford was more informative and energizing than I could have hoped for. I’m still unraveling everything I saw there. I used the week to focus on building and smelting in a bowl furnace. Similar to a standard shaft furnace with the primary difference being only 12″ tall from top to bottom. The design was based on the experiments of Lee Sauder. I also spent the week working alongside Jens Olesen of Denmark with the intention of learning as much as possible through observation and questions. I learned from him about the self-tapping blow plate shaft furnace: as elegant as it sounds. I also learned about various methods of charcoal making including in an old bathtub. Evenings were usually spent in the pub… as one might expect.

Iron Ore Derryarkin Ireland bloomery smelting
High quality ore in Derryarkin
Bog Iron Derryarkin Ireland eric dennis bloomery smelting
Fields of iron in Derryarkin
bog iron ore ireland eric dennis bloomery smelting
High quality bog ore
Woodford Ireland County Galway
Woodford Ireland Co. Galway
Bloomery Smelting Blow Plate
Self-Tapping Blow Plate
Bloomery Smelting Bowl Furnace
Bowl Furnace
Bloomery Bowl Furnace Smelt
Bowl Furnace Bloom
Bloomery Smelting
Team work
Bowl Furnace Bloomery Smelting
Bowl Furnace Bloom


Next stop was the Sliabh Aughty Furnace Project in Woodford co. Galway, a week long bloomery smelting festival (since re-named the Woodford Furnace Festival). The goal of the project was to bring together experts and enthusiasts from all over the world, harvest local bog ore, and see if it could be smelted in a variety of different style furnaces. I worked under the guidance of Jake Keen from England. Our team built three furnaces of similar design using clay, straw, and sand. We built our furnaces rather small to further investigate Jake’s work to understand the minimum feasible size for a vertical shaft furnace. What I learned from Jake during that week I hold to invaluable in my own process of learning to smelt iron. I am still (a year and a half later) realizing just how much I was taught.

Irish Bog Iron Ore
High Manganese Irish Bog Ore
Irish Bog ore roasting
Roasting the ore to prepare it for smelting
Bloomery Furnace Construction
Furnace Construction
Jake Keen Iron Bloomery Smelting
Jake doing what he does best
Jake Keen Ireland Bloomery Smelting
Jake’s Bloom Emerges
Iron Smelting Woodford Furnace Festival 2018 Lee Sauder Jake Keen
Lee and Jake working the bloom
Katie Surridge Iron Smelting Ireland Woodford Furnace Festival
My good friend Katie Surridge preparing her furnace
Bloomery Smelting Furnace
Woodford Furnace Festvial 2018 Eric Dennis Jake Keen Lee Sauder
Team striking the bloom, fresh out of the furnace
Bloomery Smelting Jake Keen Katie Surridge Eric DEnnis Jon Snow
My team!